NEC member attacks Blair as father over Euan arrest

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Indy Politics

An astonishing attack on Tony Blair as a father was made at a private meeting of Labour's ruling body by a trade union official who is a single mother.

Members of the party's national executive committee watched in amazement as Harriet Yeo launched a broadside over Mr Blair's remarks about teenage mothers in a speech on social exclusion earlier this month.

She hit back by referring to the incident in which his son Euan, then 16, was arrested after being found by police in Leicester Square, where he had vomited on the pavement.

She said she was an unmarried mother but not all of them were feckless. "My daughter has not disgraced me, not like your son who was found drunk in the gutter. We don't want lectures from you," she said.

Ms Yeo, whose daughter Angharad, 27, is studying politics, philosophy and economics at Kent University after trying working as an artist, added: "I don't like establishment men making political capital out of young poor women."

Ms Yeo, from the white-collar union TSSA, was sitting only a few feet away from Mr Blair at Wednesday's meeting at Portcullis House next to Parliament.

She accused Mr Blair of stigmatising all single mothers in a speech in which he called for early state intervention to prevent teenage pregnancies to break the cycle of deprivation. She also objected to his suggestion in an interview that unmarried mothers went into prostitution.

A grim-faced Mr Blair had been taking questions on his leader's report to the NEC. "Blair was reduced to a gibbering wreck," said one eye witness. "Harriet said she was an unmarried mother and how dare he lecture anyone on how to bring up their own family. Gordon [Brown] just sat there. There was a stunned silence." One member of the committee said: "It is the most devastating thing we have ever seen at an NEC meeting."

The Prime Minister insisted that Ms Yeo had misunderstood his speech, saying that he did not attack unmarried mothers and denied suggesting that they were all prostitutes.

But some NEC members said "hear, hear" in support of Ms Yeo when she was speaking. "She was quite right. We don't want lectures from middle-class parents like Blair patronising working-class mothers," said another Labour figure. "His family is dysfunctional. He is not in a position to lecture anyone about bringing up families."

Ms Yeo has been a member of the TSSA since 1994 in the south eastern (Kent) branch. She was first elected to the union's executive committee in in 1998.

Yesterday Ms Yeo said: "I have no regrets at all. I wanted him to feel the way he made teenage mothers feel. I did what was necessary.

"I did not criticise the policy. When I hear Hilary Armstrong [the Social Exclusion minister] talking about it, it sounds totally different. He [Mr Blair] showed his attitude towards women. He talks about prostitute mothers but he never talks about pimp fathers or what he will make the fathers do. It is all about what he will make he women do."

In his speech, Mr Blair said the "hard-to-reach" groups his "social exclusion plan" hoped to target included children in care, families with complex problems, teenage pregnancies and mental health patients.

In an earlier BBC interview, he said social intervention could happen "pre-birth". Clarifying these remarks, he told his audience in York "I am not talking about 'baby Asbos', trying to make the state raise children, or interfering with normal family life".